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Investigation Blames US  Pilots for Friendly-Fire Incident - 2002-06-29

A U.S. military panel is recommending disciplinary action against the pilots of two American fighter jets involved in a deadly attack of friendly fire in Afghanistan last April. Some key questions remain unanswered about the incident in which Canadians soldiers were killed.

A joint U.S.-Canadian investigation found that one of the F-16 pilots ignored commands to hold his fire, thinking he was under attack from what were really just live-fire exercises by Canadian troops on the ground near Kandahar. He then dropped a 200 kilogram, laser-guided bomb, killing four Canadian soldiers and wounding eight others.

General Michael DeLong of the U.S. Central Command says the pilot failed to exercise flight discipline but that it will be up to the Air Force to determine what disciplinary action will be taken. He also noted problems within the chain of command. He said, "The board further found that failings within the pilots' immediate command structures, while not causing the incidents, were contributing factors."

A Canadian investigation placed blame solely on the pilots. But many questions remain, including why the pilots were not aware of the live-fire exercises, an error that led to one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents of the Afghan war.